Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Message at Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls

It will take effort for some to give thanks this year. Unemployment is stalking many. The stock market still seeks a bottom to hit. The world seems unstable and uncertain.

Along with the temptation to fear, we are tempted to judge and blame:
  • Greedy “Wall Street” types.

  • Unaccountable and irresponsible public officials.

  • Just plain people living beyond their means.

  • Anybody with whom we disagree

In 1863, with the nation torn apart by Civil War, President Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation*. (Although some of his staff later said that it was written by Secretary of State Seward, an Episcopalian).

The message first invites us to look past the big problems and concentrate on the blessings at hand, and God who provides them:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

It also calls on us to be mindful that we all have a part in the problems around us, and that we all need to seek God’s mercy and support:

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

There is great spiritual wisdom in the proclamation. It’s main point is that we look up from the problems and put our eyes on God, praise Him and thank him for His goodness, and humbly ask Him for mercy and help.

During a time of judgment and calamity, the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk sang a message (the Bible itself contains a direction that this passage should be accompanied on stringed instruments).

I won’t ask you to sing it, but let’s turn together to Habakkuk 3:17-19 and read these words of thankful praise in the midst of problems:

Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.


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